(Standing next to Sealia) As you entered church this morning you may rightly have wondered what on earth is sitting where our low altar usually stands. If you were here early enough you might have come forward to take a closer look and figured out that this is our seal sculpture that children of the parish have been working on all summer with the guidance of Ingrid Sanborn and Meghan O’Reilly. Her name is Sealia and she is quite something isn’t she?! Everything that makes up her features and covers her body is garbage that a group of us collected at our Beach Cleanup day last June over a Salisbury Reservation beach. With a little Gorrila Glue, some paint and a lot of creativity and love she has come into being to bring us joy, but also to act as a prophet among us as we celebrate the memory of St. Francis this day.
Sealia is not unlike the Prophet Ezekiel who forcefully declares to God’s people:
You say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?
Wow! Ezekiel never was known for sugar coating anything! But the heart of the matter here is life and death and God sends Ezekiel to get God’s people’s attention – to get them to wake up, to turn from wrong to God’s ways. As God suggests with forceful love at the end of this passage – “Turn then and live.”
Sealia is a prophet like Ezekiel and Francis. This morning she puts herself in our way as we approach the altar of God and commands our attention, making us consider how our ways in this world are fair and unfair to the other creatures God created to populate this planet. Sealia is evidence that some of the ways we live have very dire consequences for those other beloved creatures of God. She blatantly points out how our use of plastics impacts ocean ecosystems.
For example, look at her fabulous silver whiskers, and her wonderful toenails on her 3 flippers – they are all made of plastic drinking straws. One thing I learned from Meghan during Sealia construction – plastic drinking straws in the oceans are hazardous to sea creatures, especially whales, seals and turtles. They get into whale stomachs and cause havoc. Sea turtles die when straws get stuck in their noses and throats and cause them not to be able to breathe or swallow. Seals who get them in their stomachs die because the straws stick there giving them the sensation that they are full – so they don’t eat and starve to death. These are tragic outcomes of something many of us use on a regularly without thinking much about it. Now the magnitude of the problem of plastics in our oceans can threaten to overwhelm us, but there are simple actions we can choose, in our own daily lives that can make a difference.
Again, Sealia’s straw whiskers and toenails can spur us to action. This week I read a wonderful article from the Washington post about a national movement to do away with plastic drinking straws- I’ve posted that article on the bulletin boards in the hallway and the parish hall. Seattle has named the campaign the “I don’t suck campaign” and that city has set the goal of ridding their city of plastic drinking straws and utensils by 2018. This all inspired me to join the movement. I got myself this set of stainless steel drinking straws. I commit to carry these in my purse and use them instead of plastic. And whenever I can will, speak to management of establishments that use plastic straws about switching to paper drinking straws which are biodegradable and as it turns out are far cheaper than plastic. I invite you to consider joining in this venture – imagine what all of us making this sort of concerted effort might mean locally – it would be a way of choosing life – not just for ourselves but for many other beloved creatures of God. A way of turning from unfair ways to ways of righteousness.
One of the bright spots of Sealia are the brightly colored Jelly fish that the Cherub Church children created from plastic shopping bags which are another scourge of our oceans. These brightly colored shopping bags around the edges of Sealia can represent to us a small victory – such bags have been banned within Newburyport for a couple of years now, thus reducing significantly the number that make it into our stretch of ocean and raising our awareness that when we shore dwellers make even small every day changes, we can make a significant impact. God bless Sealia, and God bless us as we heed her prophetic presence among us.
In Jesus Name and in memory of Francis. Amen+